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that sacred duty. “Now, I praise you, brethren,” says he, “that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth, with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For, if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn; but, if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered......For this cause ought the woman to have power (or a covering) on her head, because of the angels........Judge in yourselves : is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered ?” &c.' That this passage, as well as the fourteenth chapter of the same epistle, relates to the conduct of the Corinthian Christians in their assemblies for worship, is allowed by commentators, and is indeed evident from the whole tenor of the advice which is there imparted. The apostle, therefore, recognizes the public prophesying of females; and, since he gives directions respecting their dress and deportment during the performance of this service, it is plain that he had no intention to forbid the service itself. With respect to the prophesying, to which Paul has here alluded, as exercised by both men and women in the churches of the saints, its nature has already been defined. The reader will remember that the gift was directed to the “edification, exhortation, and comfort,” of believers, and to the convincement of unbelievers and unlearned persons; and that, in fact, it was nothing else than preaching under the immediate influences of the Holy Ghost.'

Such, and such only, were the public services of women which the apostle allowed; and such was the ministry of females predicted by the prophet Joel, and described as so leading a circumstance under the Gospel dispensation.

It appears, then, that the allowance of the public preaching and praying of women, in the Society of Friends, necessarily results from their principles respecting the character of all true ministry—that

11 Cor. xi. 2–13. 2 See 1 Cor. xiv. 3, 24, 25.

3 ** Dr. Burton, Professor of divinity in the University of Oxford, in his note on 1 Cor. xi. 5, has adopted the same method of reconciling that passage with 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35.

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we dare not, in this respect more than in any other, limit the Holy One of Israel in the exercise of his own prerogatives—that our practice, in reference to the present subject, is justified by the records of Scripture, respecting the effusions of the Spirit of God in times of old—that, even under the legal dispensation, many female servants of the Lord were called to the exercise of prophetical gifts—that, of the Gospel times, the common participation of those gifts by men and women, was one decisive mark—and that the injunctions of the apostle Paul, against the public speaking and teaching of women, can only be understood (himself being witness) of speaking and teaching which were not inspired—which were not prophesying.

Such are the general sentiments entertained in the Society of Friends respecting the ministry of women—a subject which suggests, in conclusion, one or two reflections of a practical nature.

When the apostle Paul said, “I suffer not women to teach,” he added, nor to usurp authority over the man."

Had the women, in the church of Ephesus, after receiving this injunction, assumed the office of pastors; had they attempted that description of teaching which was immediately connected with the government of the church; they would have been guilty of infringing the apostle's precept, and would have usurped an improper authority over their brethren: but, as long as their ministry was the result of the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit, and consisted in the orderly exercise of the prophetic gift, so long must they have been free from any imputation of that nature. Women who speak, in assemblies for worship, under such an influence, assume thereby no personal authority over others. They do not speak in their own name. They are the instruments through which divine instruction is communicated to the people; but they are only the instruments; and the doctrine which they preach derives its true weight and importance, not so much from the persons by whom it is uttered, as from that Being in whom it originates, and by whose Spirit it is prompted. This remark not only agrees with the doctrine of Scripture on the subject, but is confirmed, as many of my readers will be aware, by our own experience; for we well know that there are no women, among us, more generally distinguished for modesty, gentleness, order, and a right submission to their brethren, than those who have been called by their divine Master into the exercise of the Christian ministry.

11 Tim. ü. 12.

Lastly, I may venture to direct the attention of my friends to a fact which I deem to be worthy of the consideration of the Society; namely, that, during the early periods of the history of Friends, the work of the ministry devolved much more largely and generally upon the men than upon the women. If, in the present day, a similar result from our religious principles does not take place; if, on the contrary, the ministry of the women is found rather to preponderate in the Society over that of the men; such a circumstance can by no means be deemed a favourable sign. Justified, Friends appear to be, by the doctrine of Scripture, and by the powerful operations of the Spirit of Truth, in equally admitting the ministry of both sexes, it is far indeed from being any indication of life and soundness in the body at large, when the stronger sex withdraws from the battles of the Lord, and leaves them to be fought by those whose physical weakness and delicacy have an obvious tendency to render them less fit for the combat. Were we of that stronger sex, less devoted than we now are to secular objects were we less prone to a worldly spirit, and more diligent in seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”—there can be little doubt that we should be called forth in greater numbers into the arduous duties of the ministry of the Gospel; nor would the burthen of the word be found to rest, in so large a proportion as it now does, on our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters.


A, D. 1834.



The preceding chapters on the ministry, contain a plain statement of the sentiments of Friends, that no verbal communications consist with the solemnity of public worship, but those which directly arise from the influence of the Spirit. We should consider ourselves as departing from the due maintenance of this our ancient testimony, even were we to admit the reading of the Bible in our meetings for worship. Well do we know that the Holy Scripture was given forth by divine inspiration; but we also know that it may be read under a different influence; and that the selection of its parts for the use of a congregation is generally matter of merely human judgement. We therefore believe it to be far more consistent with our views of worship, to leave it to the Holy Spirit to impress its contents on the minds of our ministers, to be by them delivered to the people, or to suggest them to our own minds while we are engaged in silent waiting on the Lord.

Now it is certain that there is nothing in these views which can interfere with the duty, or alter the desirableness, of the audible reading of the Bible on other occasions—in our schools, in our family and social circles, or in larger companies, when suitable opportunities occur. Neither is there any thing in the principles of Friends which precludes the exercise of the gift of teaching—a gift distinct from that of ministry'—in connexion with such audible reading of the Holy Scriptures. Narrow indeed must be our notions of the varied means through which the great Head of the church condescends to minister to the needs of his children, if we presume to assert that the Spirit can move in only one channel, and can edify the body of Christ, through only one gift. “Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administration, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operation, but it is the same God who worketh all in all.”

I have already found occasion to observe, that to teach was a duty which often devolved on the overseers and elders of the earliest Christian churches; and there is reason to believe that this function was generally, if not always, connected with the reading of the Holy Scriptures-not, indeed, in meetings for divine worship, but on other occasions, whether private or public, of a somewhat more familiar character. To instruct the young and the ignorant in religious knowledge—to give them a right understanding of the written word—and to convince the gainsayers, by adducing the proofs which it contains, that Jesus is the true Messiah-was, probably, one of the leading duties of those persons who were called of

i Rom. xii. 7; 1 Cor. xi. 28.

2 1 Cor. xii. 4-6.

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the Lord both to feed and govern the flock of Christ. They were at once "pastors and teachers.

Still it is to be remembered, that the faculty of teaching among the early Christians, as well as that of preaching, was a divine gift, exercised in obedience to the will of God, and under its own required measure of the Lord's anointing. That neither this, nor any other gift of the Spirit is at our command, is too obvious a truth to require a single argument for its support. But I believe that we may be prepared for the reception of it by a diligent daily perusal of Scripture, by close watchfulness, and by earnest prayer; and it is equally clear, that when it is bestowed upon us, it is our duty to wait upon it, to watch for its right occasions, and to exercise it in humility and faith. On the other hand, by misapplying to this branch of the subject our testimony respecting the public worship of God, and the ministry of the Gospel, we may throw ourselves out of the way of some of those benefits which the Lord, in his own love and wisdom, would graciously afford us. Under mistaken notions of high spirituality, we may fold our arms together, and leave both our own minds, and the minds of our young people, in a state of ignorancea state which neither comes from God, nor can ever be the means of leading to him.

Our understanding is bestowed upon us for wise and even holy purposes ; without it we should be destitute of all capacities for our duties in life, and of all moral responsibility; and to commune with the highest intelligence, would be as impossible to us, as it is to the worm in the earth, or to the hyssop on the wall. Our intellectual faculty, therefore, must not be suffered to lie dormant-it must be cultivated not only for the purposes of life, but for those of eternity. Every one knows that this faculty is of necessity brought into use in the reading of the Scriptures, as well as in every other rational pursuit. Is it not then our obvious duty, by every means within our reach, to endeavour to obtain a right understanding of them, and to communicate that right understanding to those who are placed under our care? And may we not, in reverent dependance on the Holy Spirit, exercise our own faculties for the purpose ? Can we, in fact, plead any excuse for not doing so, which is likely to avail

1 Eph. iv. 11.

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